Thrush Treatment For Women

Dr Felix supplies the most widely used thrush treatments for thrush in women such as vaginal preparations, capsules and thrush cream for men on prescription. Canesten is the most widely used prescription only drug licensed in the UK for

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What is thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection which is caused by an overgrowth of the candida yeast. It mainly affects women, causing itching and irritation in and around the vagina but men can experience it too, although this is rarer. Common symptoms include redness, itching and discomfort of the vagina and vulva and a white, odourless discharge. Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection although it can be passed on during sex. 

What causes thrush?

Thrush is caused by a yeast called candida. These fungi are naturally present inside the vagina and don't usually cause problems. Thrush arises when the natural balance inside the vagina is disrupted, which causes the candida yeast to multiply. There are several common triggers which can cause this to happen which include: 

  • Antibiotics 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Poorly controlled diabetes 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Vaginal dryness or tightness during sex 
  • Perfumed soaps or lotions 
  • Tight-fitting clothes and underwear 

Where can you get thrush?

In women, thrush occurs in the vagina and around the labia. Men can also experience thrush on the tip of the penis. You can also get oral thrush inside the mouth which is usually caused by medicine or dentures. 

Are male and female thrush different?

Thrush can occur in both men and women. It is caused by the candida bacteria which naturally lives inside your skin, turning into a fungal yeast infection if the natural balance is upset. Thrush is much less common in men but the infection is the same as female thrush. It is usually referred to as candidal balanitis.

Genital thrush vs oral thrush

Oral thrush affects the inside of the mouth. It tends to be caused by asthma inhalers, antibiotics, chemotherapy or dentures. It is also fairly common in babies. The symptoms include having a white coating on the tongue, soreness of the tongue and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Oral thrush is caused by the same type of yeast as genital thrush. Genital thrush mainly affects women, causing itching and discomfort in and around the vagina. It is triggered by various possible factors like wearing tight clothing that doesn't allow the skin to breathe, using perfumed products and vaginal dryness during sex. 

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of thrush?

In women, the symptoms of thrush may include: 

  • Soreness and itching around the vagina 
  • A white discharge from the vagina 
  • Pain during sex
  • A stinging sensation during urination 

What are the symptoms of oral thrush?

The symptoms of oral thrush include: 

  • A white coating on the tongue 
  • A sore tongue or gums 
  • Cracked corners of the mouth 
  • Altered taste 
  • Unpleasant taste 
  • Finding it uncomfortable to eat or drink 

Thrush vs bacterial vaginosis

Thrush and bacterial vaginosis both affect the vagina but there are differences between the two. Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the Candida yeast whereas bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection which occurs if the PH balance of the vagina is altered. The symptoms of thrush include itching, redness and irritation and it produces a white, cottage cheese like discharge. Bacterial vaginosis causes a watery discharge which has a fishy smell and it can cause a burning sensation during urination. It does not cause an itching sensation like thrush. 

Treatment

How to prevent thrush

There are several factors which can contribute to a bout of thrush. These steps can help to prevent thrush from happening again: 

  • Avoid using perfumed soaps, lotions or deodorants around the genitals 
  • Wear clothing and underwear which allow your skin to breathe 
  • Use an emollient moisturiser instead of soap
  • Keep your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes 

How is thrush treated?

Female thrush is usually treated with a combination of a pessary or intravaginal cream and an external cream. A pessary is a tablet which is inserted into the vagina, the same goes for the intravaginal cream. These treatments come with an applicator to insert them into the vagina. Alongside this, you will have a cream to soothe external itching around the labia. Oral capsules are available if you'd prefer not to use a pessary. Sex should be avoided during the course of the treatment.

How effective are thrush treatments?

Thrush treatments are largely effective, however some women experience recurring thrush. In these cases you may want to see your GP to determine any possible underlying causes. Avoiding potential triggers can help to stop frequent bouts of thrush. These include:

  • Not using any perfumed products around the genitals 
  • Leading a stress free lifestyle and maintaining good health 
  • Change tampons and pads often 
  • Change underwear and wash swimwear after exercising 
  • Wipe from front to back after using the toilet 
  • Avoid hot baths or washing with very hot water 

How long does thrush treatment take?

Thrush usually clears up within a week, although it can take up to two weeks for the symptoms to completely disappear.

Over the counter vs prescription thrush treatments

Thrush treatments are available both on prescription or over the counter. If you have had thrush before then you can buy Canesten treatments directly from a pharmacy. It's recommended to see a GP if you have never been diagnosed with thrush before to get a prescription and to ensure that it is definitely thrush causing your symptoms. 

Which thrush treatment is right for me?

Both oral capsules, pessaries and intravaginal creams are equally effective at treating thrush. It may depend on personal preference and comfort which one is best. Oral capsules provide greater convenience while intravaginal cream may provide relief for internal itching. However, oral antifungal treatments are not suitable for pregnant women as they can increase the risk of miscarriage. 

What should I do about recurring thrush?

If you have recurring thrush seek advice from your GP. They may do further tests to find out the underlying cause of it and prescribe you with adequate treatment to keep it under control. 

How to prevent thrush recurring

The candida fungi multiplies in warm conditions. The following steps can help to prevent thrush from recurring: 

  • Avoiding tight, synthetic clothing 
  • Using water and emollient based creams instead of perfumed soaps 
  • Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet 
  • Wear cotton or silk underwear which allows your skin to breathe

Will thrush resolve on its own if left untreated?

If you only have mild symptoms, thrush might resolve on its own. However this may make it more likely to return. While thrush is not serious, the symptoms can be uncomfortable. 

How should I treat thrush during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, thrush should be treated with an intravaginal cream alongside the external cream for use around the labia. Oral tablets are not suitable for pregnant women and can heighten the risk of a miscarriage. The internal cream should be applied carefully to avoid the cervix.

Which underwear is best for thrush?

Cotton underwear which allows your skin to breathe is best for preventing thrush.  

What can you do to alleviate your thrush symptoms while you wait for your symptoms to resolve?

If you're having treatment for thrush it can take up to a week for the infection to clear up. The symptoms of thrush are often uncomfortable and using an antifungal cream such as Canesten will help to soothe the itching and irritation. This is widely available in the shops and may come alongside a vaginal pessary or internal cream treatment. 

Q&A

Is thrush caused by bacteria?

Thrush is caused by a type of yeast rather than bacteria. It happens when the candida yeast is encouraged to grow more than normal which can be triggered by bacterial changes in the vagina. Common triggers for this include: 

  • Pregnancy 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Antibiotics 
  • Using perfumed soaps or feminine washes 
  • Wearing synthetic tight clothing 

Can stress cause thrush?

Stress is a possible trigger for causing thrush. This is because stress lowers the immune system, leaving the body feeling run down and more vulnerable to infection. 

Is thrush a yeast infection?

Thrush is a yeast infection. It is caused by the candida yeast which lives harmlessly inside the vagina. It turns into a yeast infection when the natural balance inside the vagina is disrupted, triggering an overgrowth of the candida yeast. 

Do I need to get tested for thrush?

The first time you get thrush you should see your GP for an accurate diagnosis to rule out other possible causes. After this, you can access thrush treatment directly from a pharmacy without having to get a prescription. 

Why is thrush more common in diabetics?

High blood sugar creates an ideal environment for yeast to grow which is why thrush is more common in people with diabetes. If you are diabetic, your immune system may be lower, which also makes you more likely to get thrush.   

Why do antibiotics cause thrush?

Antibiotics work by killing bacteria which cause an infection. They cause thrush because they also kill off the harmless bacteria which are present in the vagina and would normally fight off yeast infections. 

Is thrush an STI?

Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection but it can be passed on during sex if you or your partner has the yeast infection. 

Can I have sex if I have thrush?

You should avoid sex until your thrush clears up. It can make the infection worse, slowing down treatment or you risk passing it on to your partner. 

How can I tell if I have thrush or an STI?

The symptoms of thrush include itching and discomfort around the entrance to the vagina, redness and a white, odourless discharge. You may also experience discomfort during sex. If you experience any of the following symptoms this may be a sign of an STI: 

  • Bleeding between periods or after sex
  • A green or yellow discharge with an odour 
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination 
  • Visible blisters, sores or warts 

If you are in any doubt, then visit a sexual health clinic or order one of our discreet home testing kits to get tested. 

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Easy to use website. A straightforward online consultation with a quick response back. Choice of products for your condition , all with clear descriptions and prices. And an amazing super fast dispatch/delivery. I found treatment for a minor problem in 2 days, sure beats trying to get an bob urgent appointment with my local surgery! Thank you all.

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